Garry Kasparov

Russian chess grandmaster and activist

Garry Kimovich Kasparov (born 13 April 1963) is a chess grandmaster and one of the strongest chess players in history.

My nature is that I have to excite myself with a big challenge.
The game that defines dictators much better is poker because it’s about bluffs. It doesn’t matter whether you have a strong hand or weak hand. You can have a weak hand, but if you’re comfortable bluffing, raising stakes, and if you can read your opponent.
I have to say as somebody who was born and raised in a Communist country, I cannot criticize any action that led to the destruction of dictatorship.
[T]he failure of capitalism is still much better than the success of socialism.



  • The public must come to see that chess is a violent sport. Chess is mental torture.
    • As quoted in Martin Amis's review of "Kasparov-Short" by Raymond Keene, Independent on Sunday, November 1995.


  • In conclusion, if you want to unravel the multitude of secrets of chess then don't begrudge the time.
    • Learn Chess with Gary Kasparov (2003)
  • Every country has its own mafia. In Russia, the mafia has its own country.

How Life Imitates Chess (2007)Edit

  • Having spent a lifetime analyzing the game of chess and comparing the capacity of computers to the capacity of the human brain, I've often wondered, where does our success come from? The answer is synthesis, the ability to combine creativity and calculation, art and science, into a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Chess is a unique cognitive nexus, a place where art and science come together in the human mind, and are then refined and improved by experience.
    • Opening Gambit, Why Chess?, p. 4
  • It's not enough to be talented. It's not enough to work hard and to study late into the night. You must also become intimately aware of the methods you use to reach your decisions.
    • Part I, Chapter 1, The Lesson, p. 14
  • With each success the ability to change is reduced. My longtime friend and coach Grandmaster Yuri Dokhoian, aptly compared it to being dipped in bronze. Each victory added another coat.
    • Part I, Chapter 2, Strategy, p. 34
  • This obligation to move can be a burden to a player without strategic vision.
    • Part I, Chapter 3, Strategy And Tactics At Work, p. 36
  • You must also have a sense of when to stop.
    • Part I, Chapter 4, Calculation, p. 51
  • For inspiration I look to those great players who consistently found original ways to shock their opponents. None did this better than the eighth world champion, Mikhail Tal. The "Magician of Riga" rose to become champion in 1960 at age twenty-three and became famous for his aggressive, volatile play.
    • Part I, Chapter 5, Talent, p. 60-61
  • Everyone, at any age, has talents that aren't fully developed-even those who reach the top of their profession.
    • Part I, Chapter 6, Preparation, p. 69
  • We think about time as something not to waste, not as something to invest.
    • Part II, Chapter 7, MTQ: Material, Time, Quality, p. 93
  • In chess, bigamy is acceptable but monarchy is absolute.
    • Part II, Chapter 8, Exchanges And Imbalances, p. 102
  • I like to say that the attacker always has the advantage.
    • Part II, Chapter 10, The Attacker's Advantage, p. 122
  • If you're already in a fight, you want the first blow to be the last and you had better be the one to throw it.
    • Part II, Chapter 10, The Attacker's Advantage, p. 130
  • Question the status quo at all times, especially when things are going well.
    • Part III, Chapter 11, Question Success, p. 135
  • Solving new problems is what keeps us moving forward as individuals and as a society, so don't back down.
    • Part III, Chapter 13, Man Vs. Machine, p. 170
  • Caissa, the goddess of chess, had punished me for my conservative play, for betraying my nature.
    • Part III, Chapter 15, Crisis Point, p. 188
  • We have to always look ahead enough moves to be well prepared, even for victory!
    • Part III, Epilogue, p. 204


  • Allow dissent & free media for 6 months in Russia and see what happens. Putin would never risk it because he’s terrified of his own people and the truth, like every dictator.
  • The leaders of the free world keep lowering their standards and authoritarians keep taking more territory. Eventually people wake up and ask why Putin murders in the UK or hacks in the US. Why wouldn’t he? You didn’t stop him before.
  • People ask about dictators, "Why?" But dictators themselves ask, "Why not?"

Winter is Coming (2015)Edit

  • Somehow people always forget that it's much easier to install a dictator than to remove one.
  • Each victory pulls the victor down slightly and makes it harder to put in maximum effort to improve further.
    • Foreword, p. XX
  • The United States is a very different thing. It's a continent-spanning nation built from scratch by millions of immigrants from every part of the world on top of its native population.
    • p. 42
  • Anatoly Karpov and I donated the prize fund from our 1986 world championship match to the Chernobyl victim relief fund.
    • p. 17
  • Communism is like an autoimmune disorder; it doesn't do the killing itself, but it weakens the system so much that the victim is left helpless and unable to fight off anything else.
    • p. 33
  • We must decide what we value and decide what is worth fighting for and then–the most important part–we must fight for it.
    • p. 62
  • Reforms are only institutional if they have a real effect on how people live.
    • p. 100
  • It's not common, in our age, for someone to retire while still at the top, but I'm a man who needs a goal, and who wants to make a difference.
    • p. 136
  • Great leaders are formed only by taking on great challenges.
    • p. 190
  • The NSA is to the Stasi what a bad hotel is to a maximum security prison.
    • p. 223

Interview with Bill Kristol (2016)Edit

Interview with Bill Kristol (February 2016), transcript
  • [C]hess was treated by the Soviet authorities as a very important and useful ideological tool to demonstrate the intellectual superiority of the Soviet communist regime over the decadent West.
  • "Socialism with a human face"? ... Frankenstein also had a human face.

Interview with Bill Kristol (2016)Edit

Interview with Bill Kristol (April 2016), transcript
  • I was almost annoyed hearing that Putin plays chess and Obama or other leaders of the free world they play checkers. I thought I had to defend the integrity of my game because chess is not a game for dictators for numerous reasons. One, it’s transparent. It’s all information hundred percent available so you know exactly what you have, you know exactly what your opponent has. You don’t know what he or she is thinking, but you definitely know what kind of resources your opponent can use to hurt you, to damage your position.
  • [C]hess is not a game for dictators for numerous reasons. One, it's transparent. It’s all information hundred percent available so you know exactly what you have, you know exactly what your opponent has. You don’t know what he or she is thinking, but you definitely know what kind of resources your opponent can use to hurt you, to damage your position. Also, chess is very much a strategic game so you have to think long-term. Dictators don’t think long-term. Dictators, especially who are in power for so long as Putin is, they have to work on the survival mode. Because it’s all about today, maybe tomorrow morning. Everything that helps us survive is good. Because the moment the dictator thinks long-term, he’ll definitely miss guys from his own entourage hitting him in his own back. The game that defines dictators much better is poker because it’s about bluffs. It doesn’t matter whether you have a strong hand or weak hand. You can have a weak hand, but if you’re comfortable bluffing, raising stakes, and if you can read your opponent.
  • [I]t's very important to understand that this is the dictators always operate short-term, and democracies must operate long-term because it’s not about one individual who’s currently running the country, whether it’s president or prime minister. It’s about the success of the country. It’s about the success of the system. It’s about pressing, you know, all advantages and their strategic, lasting institutions that could make the difference even when the president or prime minister is no longer in the office.
  • Putin hasn’t come out of the blue, you know? It’s not just Putin. That’s why again in my book Winter is Coming, I emphasize why Vladimir Putin and enemies of the free world must be stopped. Because Putin, you may call him bosses of bosses, Capo dei Capi, he’s like a spider in the center of this web. Because Putin helps other bad guys, other thugs, dictators, and terrorists to sort of feel free to attack the free world. Because they all know that unless they attack the free world, unless they attack the United States as the leader of the free world, they will have no credibility with their own people because neither Putin nor Iranian mullahs, nor Al Qaeda, Islamic State or other dictators around the globe, they have nothing to offer but confrontation. They have to present themselves of the protectors of their own people against the world evil. And of course, they have to attack the free world that produces everything that, by the way, they use quite effectively against us. They cannot compete in innovations, they cannot compete in ideas, in productivity. But they can compete in something quite different because for us, each human life is unique. *For them, killing a thousand people, hundreds of thousands of people, a million is a demonstration of strengths. So we should realize that they have no allergy for blood. And they will keep pressing their advantage, and it’s not that we have grown – that our enemies have grown stronger. It’s our resolve that has grown weaker.
  • So what’s happened since ’92, it’s where the administrations that changed quite dramatically, the foreign policy, and it was working more like pendulum, swinging from one side to the other. Clinton did very little, W did too much, Obama has been doing nothing. It sent a message – sent numerous messages across the world. While people knew in the 50s and 60s and 70s and 80s that America was there, America was consistent. Even if you have a change in the Oval Office, one party replaces another, you could rely on the United States. America was behind American allies. Today? It’s probably, it’s a springtime to be an American enemy because this administration gives up everything to the enemies and betrays allies. And going back to George W. administration, it’s very popular to criticize Bush today, Bush 43. Especially for the Iraq invasion, and I’ve heard many voices, even within the Republican Party, it’s just floating with the popular trend. First of all, I have to say as somebody who was born and raised in a Communist country, I cannot criticize any action that led to the destruction of dictatorship. I think his people had wrong expectations. When they saw the collapse of Saddam’s dictatorship after American invasion of Iraq and then the collapse of a few other dictatorships during the Arab Spring, they had expectations that next day, it would be a democracy. It’s wrong. It was very naive because dictators succeeds the staying in power for so many years, not because he’s a nice guy, just helps his people to get out of poverty, but because he’s brutal, he’s cruel. He succeeds in destroying opposition, first political opposition and then freedom of press and remaining horizontal ties in the society. All the NGOs, anything that could represent not just a threat to him, but it’s any sort of the slightest dissent. It’s kind of a political desert. What do you expect in a desert after 10, 20, 30 – in the case of Gaddafi, 42 years of dictatorship?
  • Bush Administration was a success.
  • [E]ven if we disagree about the Iraq invasion in 2003 and the consequent moves made by Bush 43 Administration, the decision of Obama Administration to retreat, especially announcing it, this is the worst you can do. At noon, at that day, that month, we are out. By sending the signal to the radical Islamists, to the forces that were about just to recover and prepare again for attacks against the free world, that was a recipe for disaster. It created a vacuum. It’s not a surprise that we live in a world today that is a much more dangerous place than in 2008. It helped Vladimir Putin to regain his confidence and because after his attack against the Republic of Georgia in 2008 in August, he was basically rewarded by Obama/Clinton “reset” policy instead of paying a price for taking territory of neighboring country.
  • Since ’91, it was more of poker because again, it’s America, even today is much more powerful than all the enemies combined. It’s probably the first time after the collapse of the Soviet Union that the forces of freedom, the free world, had overwhelming military and economic advantage. And also politically, it dominated the field because even the worst dictatorships now they’re trying to pretend that they have elections. Not pressing it’s advantages looks quite odd because it again create this vacuum, and also I think it affects ordinary people in these countries. Whether it’s Iran, Arab countries, Russia, because they used to look at America as a beacon of freedom and the country that stood firm defending the free world. And now it’s quite odd because America is there, but America is not there. The whole stories about current political climate here and elections, they’re for the eroding reputation of the United States, and I think the damage caused by this administration to the prestige of the country, and especially to the prestige of the presidency, this damage could take years to recover and rebuild.
  • It’s easy to lose your reputation, it’s easy to lose your friends, to lose their confidence, than to regain it.
  • My response to Bernie Sanders' you know uh stories you know fairytales is that uh the failure of capitalism is still much better than the success of socialism.

The Truth About Putin (2018)Edit

Full text of "The Truth About Putin" (March 2018), The Weekly Standard
  • When I retired from professional chess in 2005 to join the Russian pro-democracy movement against Putin, I was frequently asked how my chess experience might help me in politics. My answer was that it wouldn’t help much at all, because in chess we had fixed rules and uncertain results, while in Russian politics it was exactly the opposite.
  • Putin should simply be called a dictator.
  • Let’s move on to the next major lie in my opening statement, the idea of Putin’s popularity in Russia. I could not begin to count the number of times I’ve been forced to address this myth, the persistence of which I again attribute to our lack of language to describe modern dictatorships. Terms like “polls” and “popularity” as applied to politicians in the free world have very different meanings in authoritarian regimes. I’m fond of asking in response to questions about Putin’s “popularity” if a restaurant is popular if it’s the only one in town and every other restaurant was burned to the ground.
  • This is not to say that a dictator or his policies cannot have popular support. The problem is defining what support means after 18 years of a personality cult and 24/7 propaganda that portrays Putin as a demigod protecting Russia from deadly enemies without and within. A year of fake news trolling and half-baked social media memes had half of America and its vaunted media running in circles in 2016. Imagine what it does to a population when that’s all there is, every hour, every day, for nearly two decades.
  • The same definition issue arises with the word “election.” In a free society, the day of the vote is the culmination of a long democratic process that depends on equal access to an unfettered media, fair conditions, debates, etc., none of which have existed in Russia for nearly 20 years. Postulating that Putin would win anyway even if the March 18 election were honest is a meaningless exercise. If he and his policies were truly popular, in the real sense of the word, he wouldn’t need to spend so much time and effort dominating the media, eliminating rivals, and rigging elections large and small. Persecuting bloggers and arresting a single protester standing in the town square with an anti-Putin sign does not strike me as the behavior of a ruler who believes in his own popularity.
  • As for polling, when an anonymous caller reaches a Russian at home to ask his opinion of the man who controls every aspect of the Russian police state, it would take great courage to report anything less than enthusiastic support. It is a testament to the bravery of many of my countrymen that Putin does not yet receive the 99 percent approval scores that Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi enjoyed up until the minute they no longer had the power of life and death over their own citizens.
  • It’s still unfathomable that Russia went from joyously celebrating the end of totalitarianism to electing a KGB lieutenant-colonel in just nine years. Never take your liberty for granted, and be careful whom you vote for because it may be the last election you’ll ever have.
  • In chess, we say that the player with the initiative is obliged to attack, otherwise the initiative will be lost and the counterattack will likely be decisive.
  • The implicit, or even explicit, offer made by authoritarians is stability in exchange for liberty. High oil prices allowed Putin to keep this bargain for a while, aided by an international community that lost interest in promoting liberty as soon as the Berlin Wall fell. Putin was welcomed by the G7 as an equal while destroying democracy and civil society at home. Imagine how difficult it was for us in Russia to attack Putin’s regime as undemocratic while he was being embraced by the leaders of the free world. Even Putin’s invasion of neighboring Georgia in August 2008 resulted in no censure or sanction. He was rewarded by Obama and Hillary Clinton’s reset a few months later, confirming to him that a move into Ukraine would also go unchallenged.
  • The old joke about the two main Soviet papers, Pravda (“Truth”) and Izvestia (“News”), was “There’s no news in the Truth and no truth in the News!”
  • There are an infinite number of ways to lie and only one truth. Propaganda today is not a wall, not a dike holding back information from reaching the people. It is a flood, overwhelming our critical thinking. The concept is not to promote a particular narrative or agenda but to create doubt and to make people believe that the truth is unknowable. There are no Russian forces in Ukraine. Russia didn’t meddle in the U.S. election. The popular Vladimir Putin was reelected on March 18, 2018.
  • Putin is willing to poison bodies in the free world, not only minds. Why would he do this? Why would he call attention to his murderous ways now? Well, I’ll turn that around and ask instead, why wouldn’t he? Dictators don’t ask “Why,” they ask “Why not?”
  • Like any bully, Putin only picks fights that he is sure he can win. History tells us that sooner or later, he will become so overconfident, so accustomed to his opponents folding their cards against his weak hand, that he will overstep, potentially resulting in a catastrophe on a global scale.
  • Russia’s election spectacle on March 18 isn’t only a domestic distraction. It provides Putin’s defenders in the free world with rhetorical ammunition, as do the approval polls and fake controversies over the fake opposition candidates. There is no form of democratic process or opposition in Putin’s Russia. Pretending otherwise makes you complicit in his propaganda. Stop calling them elections. Stop calling Putin a president. Stop calling to congratulate him on his victories. Let us begin the fight against Putin’s lies with the fundamental truth about what he really is.

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